Okwuchukwu Okafor is a former organising secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in Anambra State. In this interview with journalists, Okafor says PDP remains the party to beat in this year’s governorship election in the state. He also discusses other political issues. Olaseni Durojaiye, who was at the session, brings the excerpts:
On his assessment of Willie Obiano’s administration.
The past two preceding administrations of Dr. Chris Ngige of PDP and Mr. Peter Obi of APGA proved to everyone that despite our inadequate Federal allocations, that we could look inwards and make judicious use of the limited resources to develop our state. Ngige rehabilitated about 200 km of roads in 3 years whilst Obi rehabilitated over 800 km of road establishing one of the very best road networks in the country. Peter Obi reformed the educational infrastructure resulting in the state students excelling high in external examinations. Everyone had looked forward to the incoming administration improving in other areas whilst maintaining the established standard in security, education and road infrastructure. The Obiano administration has been found wanting in this regard.
There is nothing being done about creating wealth and empowering our youth and women. Imagine that in 2014, only about 1000 farmers were provided with seedlings when there are over 20,000 registered farmers in the state. Even the roads that were rehabilitated are not being maintained. Many of the roads whose drains should have been de-silted are filled with sand and with the coming rains many more are going to have erosion of their surfaces.
That is why we are saying Ndi Anambra can do it better. It can be done better and if we allowed this present administration to do another four years, the state would collapse. The present conflicts amongst communities would grind our state, poverty and loss of opportunities will force our youth into criminal activities, and our educational system will break down.
On PDP’s readiness for the governorship election in the face of its perennial internal squabbles?
The problem and rancour within the Anambra state chapter of the PDP is not peculiar to PDP but is more visible because it is a party that has more membership and more popular political leaders. Despite the problems of our party and the issue of multiple candidatures that we witnessed during past elections, PDP has continued to win elections in the state except the governorship elections of 2010 and 2014. In the two elections, we lost because the candidates the party nominated were not able to unite the party behind them. The leadership of our party at these periods was not able to also mediate and address all the conflicting interests.
Secondly, we must not forget that APGA had its fair share of crisis in the run up to that 2014 election. The National Chairman, Victor Umeh was fighting for his chair at the court and won it back at the Appeal court, some strong governorship aspirants were disqualified few weeks to the primaries and one or two even went to court to challenge the action. APGA was able to win that election, because Peter Obi brought to bear reconciliation with the divergent interests whilst PDP remained rudderless and the candidate was campaigning as if the federal might was going to deliver the seat.
Today, the ruling party, APGA is embroiled in a fresh crisis that has landed in court, and even when it is normal to assume the incumbent governor, has the right of first refusal, there is someone else already aspiring for the seat within APGA. On our part, PDP is talking within its membership rank, and I am seeing those interested in the governorship talking and mingling trying to develop a closer understanding. I believe we all have realised what disunity has cost us, and we are more responsible in the leadership now than was the case before.
Another factor working for the PDP in Anambra state is the presence of Peter Obi who had proven to be deft at conflict resolution and actually had dealt peacefully with many of the PDP leaders whilst he governed as governor in APGA. Don’t forget he was at the head of APGA when PDP lost the two elections in 2010 and 2014.
On the negative signs from PDP’s national leadership.
That some of our strong members are defecting to the APC is pitiable. I feel pity for them because whilst some may think these people are deserting PDP, many see them as deserting the Igbo interest. It is clear what we face today as Ndi Igbo in Nigeria. Someone had questioned why those who gave them 5 percent should get equal attention.
The country is seeking a 30 billion dollars external loan and no single project in the loan funding plan is in the whole of South East. Our demand to give us six states like other zones is not being considered at all. My younger brothers and sisters who are full of youth are making demand in peace are being cut down and clamped down; yet what representatives of Anambra state at the federal level who were elected by Ndi Anambra on the platform of PDP find worthwhile is to cross over at the green and red chambers to the ruling APC is regrettable.
PDP is not the loser from these actions of my brethren who are crossing over. Rather, in Anambra state, their temporary absence will enable us reconcile faster and work harder to serve our people. Note that I said, temporary, because I believe they will be back before 2019, once they realised the futility of their actions.
On his take on the crackdown on corrupt judicial officers.
I will continue to maintain that corruption and debased values and norms remain the cause of our stunted economic development in Nigeria. Corruption in all its facets from abuse of public office to bribery and stealing of government funds is encouraged because we lack appropriate values. The judiciary ought to be the last hope for social justice in the society and the truth is that we are all aware that bribery is not alien within the judiciary which is supposed to be the last bastion of justice. As such, it would have been useless fighting corruption without attempting to cleanse the Judiciary.
The only problem persons like me have against the government agencies combating corruption is that often they are not fighting within the rules of engagement. Accused persons rights must be respected and court orders no matter how distasteful they may be must be adhered to.